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Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

woman in painIf you have been through the process of being diagnosed for fibromyalgia, you will know that it can be frustrating and worrying time. Fibromyalgia forums are full of the stories of individuals who are going through/have gone through this challenging period. One blogger “fibro girl” explains her own experience here:

I eventually saw countless… doctors (neurologist, gastroenterologist, and abdominal surgeon, several chiropractors, as well as several internal medicine doctors), but no one knew what was going on… Thoughts of fibromyalgia entered my head again, but I continually dismissed those ideas.”

Why is fibromyalgia so difficult to diagnose?

As the NHS website explains, the main difficulty in diagnosing fibromyalgia is that:

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary and are similar to those of several other conditions.” 

In addition, the symptoms of fibromyalgia may vary from person to person, from day to day, and can be experienced in differing levels of severity.

What are the symptoms?

The major symptoms of fibromyalgia may include the following:

  • Widespread pain
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Cognitive problems (‘fibro fog’)
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Depression

A GP will normally ask you how these symptoms affect your daily life.

Ruling out other conditions

Another difficulty in diagnosing fibromyalgia is that its symptoms can be very similar to those experienced in other conditions.  Your GP will need to rule these conditions out before coming to any conclusions about fibromyalgia, these include:

 Tender points test

There are 18 tender points associated with fibromyalgia. According to guidelines delivered by the American College of Rheumotology:

suggest that people with fibromyalgia have pain in at least 11 of these tender points when a doctor applies a certain amount of pressure.

If your GP suspects that you may have fibromyalgia, he/she will check these tender points to inform a diagnosis.

Where can I expect my main tender points to be?

The 18 tender points mentioned come in pairs, and can be found in the following anatomical areas:

  • Back of the neck
  • Front of the neck
  • Shoulders
  • Elbows
  • Chest
  • Hips
  • Lower back
  • Upper back
  • Knees

Did you experience frustration when awaiting your diagnosis of fibromyalgia? Or, are you currently going through the assessment process? Do share any tips and advice you might have with others, or tell us your story.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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